Winter safety and risk management tips for councils
Author: Lee Cleaver, sales development account broker at Clear Councils Insurance
With winter well and truly upon us, now is a good time for local (parish and town) councils to prepare for the worsening weather from a safety and risk management perspective. The winter weather can present many challenges, with roads, car parks, walkways, stairs/steps, bus shelters, playgrounds, and more becoming more hazardous due to ice and snow.
Council buildings can also suffer damage during winter – particularly from storms, high winds, floods and icy weather. To help make sure your council is well prepared for the various risks that winter weather poses, we have put together the below tips and advice. If you would like any further information or have any specific questions regarding risk management, please get in touch with us today.
Tips for dealing with winter weather
For any local council, severe weather conditions can impact the ability to deliver services effectively. It can also increase risks regarding the health and safety of employees, contractors, volunteers and members of the public.
Rain, snow, ice and wind can put extra strain on buildings and increase the chances of external and internal damage. During the winter months, it is recommended that you increase the frequency of property inspections to make sure there are no problems and to identify any issues early. You should pay extra attention to the more ‘at-risk’ areas such as roofs, gutters, chimneys and water pipes.
Protect against slips and trips
Less daylight during winter, wet leaves on the ground and the potential for ice patches all contribute to an increased risk of slips and trips. As this risk is foreseeable during winter, councils must take steps to minimise any accidents as much as possible. The health and safety executive (HSE) provides detailed guidance for reducing the risk of winter slips and winter trips, including removing wet and decaying leaves, providing adequate lighting, dealing with rainwater, and gritting key access routes.
Protecting your staff
It is also important to assess how the cold weather might affect your staff – and to take reasonable steps to manage this. Some extra considerations need to be made for those working outdoors – including those gritting or clearing leaves at your premises. These include:
- Providing suitable personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Providing a warm area for rest breaks
- Ensuring workers have a means of summoning help or assistance if working alone
- Briefing staff on the health effects of working outdoors in cold weather and what symptoms to look out for
Guidance from the HSE is also available to help protect your employees when working outdoors.
Tips to help protect buildings from frozen and burst pipes
Frozen pipes are a particular risk in cold temperatures, and an escape of water can cause major damage. Here are some tips to help protect your buildings from the risk of burst pipes in the colder weather:
- Insulate all pipes in unheated areas like sheds, garages, outbuildings, etc.
- If you have thermostatically-controlled heating systems in your buildings, these should be left on permanently on a minimum temperature setting of 4°C
- Turn off the water supplies and drain the pipes in any building that will not be used over the winter months
- Make sure you repair any dripping taps – usually, it is as simple as replacing a washer
What to do if you have a burst pipe
If the heating system stops working or makes a loud banging noise, it could be a sign that a pipe is freezing. If that happens, you should:
- Turn off the water supply at the main stop tap
- Contact an approved plumbing and heating engineer straight away
- If your pipes freeze over, do not use a naked flame to try and thaw them
Winter checklist for councils – top tips for dealing with winter weather
Our free winter checklist for councils can assist you in preparing for bad weather. It is important to periodically review your winter programme to ensure that it is fit for purpose and you are ready to manage the risks ahead. Town and parish councils need to have a thorough winter maintenance programme, which should:
- Include an equipment plan (e.g. shovels for gritting)
- Identify who is responsible for each task
- Detail the follow-up procedures for snow removal
- Layout your communications plans with the wider community
It is also important to regularly review your winter programme to ensure it evolves with the weather so you are well prepared to manage the risks ahead.
To help with this process, download our winter checklist for councils now.
The following blog post is for informational purposes only and should not be considered professional or legal advice. The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Association of Local Councils. Any links to external sources included in this blog post are provided for convenience and do not constitute endorsement or approval of those websites' content, products, services, or policies. Therefore, readers should use discretion and judgment when applying the information to their circumstances. Finally, this blog post may be updated or revised without notice.